Nearly half of the 28 million people in Nepal live on less than $1 per day. Most of them live in rural areas, where they eke out a living as farmers, usually with little access to sanitation facilities or potable water.
Education is not compulsory and barely half of all children complete primary school. The U.S. State Department estimated attendance at primary schools in 2001 at 80 percent. Unicef reports that half a million Nepali children are unable to attend school today.
When parents cannot feed their children, they have no alternative but to send them off to work instead of school. In 2002, more than 40 percent of Nepali children between the ages of 5 and 14 were forced to work – at least 40,000 as bonded laborers.
Often, girls do not have the same chance to go to school as boys. Girls aged 10 to 14 work twice as much as boys in the same age group, and about 20 percent of girls trafficked for the sex trade (about 40,000) are younger than 16. This is reflected in literacy rates: just 39 percent of girls in Nepal can read and write, compared to 61 percent of boys.